St. Helens goes 0-2 at the championship tournament, but has a fantastic season to look back on.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Logan Kalauli (center) searches for a way to cope seconds after St. Helens fell to Willamette in the opening round. She and teammates Gabby Susee (left) and Taylor Albertson have been part of one of the most dominant groups of hitters in school history.St. Helens saw their volleyball state title hopes come crashing down last weekend, as the Lions fell to Willamette in the quarterfinal match on Friday afternoon, and followed that up with a four-set stumble at the hands of Lebanon on Saturday morning. In spite of going winless at the championship tournament, the squad still finishes as one of the best in St. Helens history, ending the season ranked third in the state and winning the tough Northwest Oregon conference for the first time since 1989.

The loss on Friday was especially difficult to bear. After dropping the first set 23-25 to Willamette, who lost to West Albany in the final, the Lions fought back to win the second set 25-22. It seemed all was put to rights, but Willamette responded to take a solid lead in the third set by quenching a fiery Lion rally, and robbing St. Helens of the momentum. The final set was closer, but St. Helens lost 21-25, sending a teary group to the locker room, their championship dreams dashed.

Senior Libero Madison Kaplan struggled to maintain composure as she walked back on the floor after the team’s post game meeting. She said the key to staying alive in the tournament was to focus on the fact their season wasn’t over, and there was still something to play for.

Head coach Tom Ray wondered aloud about which team would show up for the next day: the squad who beat down rival Sherwood, or a group who – heartbroken – didn’t have much left for a fight to claim fifth place.

As it turns out, his fears were founded.

The Lions came out flat in the first set, falling 17-25 in one of their worst defeats all season long. The second set was better, and the Lions won a close 25-22 victory in the third, but a 25-19 loss in the fourth put an end to a valiant 2013 run for the St. Helens Lady Lions.

St. Helens was awarded the Sportsmanship Trophy for the 5A tournament. Senior Gabby Susee was selected to the All-Tournament first team, and junior Taylor Albertson made the All-Tournament second team.

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